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I was pissed off with silver

I went to the Rio Paralympics unbeaten in a decade. At my first world championships in 2006, I came third in the 200m and was disqualified in the 100m because of a false start. I broke the world record in the 100m and the 200m four months after that world champs, and hadn’t been beaten again.


I have been with my coach Iryna Dvoskina since 2005. She’s like a second mum to me. We won together in Beijing and London and together we’d decided that Rio would be the crowning glory.


That would be where I’d run my fastest time, a time I’d never beat, and then go home and get on with life.


Then I got beaten. Rio was a terrible time. I wasn’t happy with the team environment – and I’m still not – and that was really affecting me at the time.



As an athlete, you are doing everything you can to be the best you can when you’re on that line every four years and when my performance doesn’t feel fully appreciated, it’s really tough as an athlete.


I had always felt that Rio would be my last race, but I was really pissed off after getting silver, and really pissed off that everyone would think ‘he got beaten and walked away’.


So I thought, ‘right, let’s do Commonwealth Games’. I needed a job and couldn’t live in Canberra anymore. So I moved to Sydney for a year and a half, and started working for my parents. A big part of the reason that I kept going was that my parents just really looked after me in that period.


They said, ‘Come and work part time. Train in the morning, come to work and do what you can, and then go home.’


They just gave me really flexible hours and I couldn’t say no to that. So I kept going and during that time my wife got pregnant and gave birth just before the Games.




My brain is wired differently

In 2018, while training for the Games, I had a gym instructor, Zsolt Zsombor, who had represented Hungary at two Winter Olympics in the bobsled.


The winter Games were on TV at the time and I said to him, ‘Do you reckon, with my speed and body shape, if I trained fulltime for it, could I make the bobsled team?’


He knows me pretty well, and told me he thought I could.


It probably would have been easier for my life if he just said ‘no’. But when he said that it was like ‘oh shit, there’s a challenge. Someone actually thinks I could do it and I haven’t even tried it yet. I’m going to have to try.’


I think my brain damage definitely affects my personality as well as my body. To most people it wouldn’t be obvious, but I can see that I deal with things differently than others.


At university, when I was studying architecture, I could see that I learn and think slightly different to most people. My brain is slightly wired differently and I couldn’t get the bobsled out of my mind

Before I spoke to my wife, I spoke to my dad.


He took me for a walk at lunchtime one day and asked what I was going to do after the Comm Games, if I was happy working at the office. I was like ‘not really.’ He’s like ‘Yeah, I already knew that. What are you going to do?’


I told him, ‘Well, I had this crazy idea. I could go and do bobsled.’ I summed up in one sentence how I would do it, by moving my family to Europe where I could afford to live. Within 30 seconds he just said, ‘yeah, go do it.’



From there I went to the bobsled selection camp. Five or six guys turned up and none of the guys who went to the previous Olympics came back. No one had driving experience so we’re starting fresh and a lot of the guys wanted to go to America to train.


I’d already had a conversation with my wife, who was an Olympic race walker from the Czech Republic in a former life and was missing her family.


I told her my crazy idea. ‘We could move to Europe, nearer your parents, and I could try bobsled and see how it goes.’ I thought she’d say no, but she didn’t.


Because bobsled is not funded in Australia, there isn’t a lot of direction. After the camp, where it’s like, ‘yeah you can go if you want’, it’s basically up to the pilots to design their season and see where they want to go.


It’s all self-funded and the pilot is in charge of finding a lot of the money. The pilot pays for the sled, the blades that go on the bottom of the sled, and every practice run that you do costs at least 60 euros – and I do more than 100 runs in a season.


At the moment I’m struggling to get a sponsor, other than my parents’ company. It’s an expensive sport so I’ve just put it out there on Twitter that anyone who gives me $300 to help me, I’ll put their name on the side of my sled for all my racing and training this season.


You want in on that, hit me up on Twitter or Instagram @evanohanlon.




You have the ultimate respect

Have you seen the Eddie the Eagle movie where all the rival athletes apparently give him a hard time because he’s learning, and not much good?


Bobsled is nothing like that, and that’s what I love the most. If I go to the athletics track, I’m just walking around like I’m king shit. Everyone else is doing the same.


If my shoelace broke before my race, no one would give a shit. They’d be like, ‘that’s your problem man.’


If you stand up the top of a bobsled track and you’re ready to push off, you have the ultimate respect of everybody else standing at the top. Everyone understands we’re all doing something that’s very dangerous.


If I’m missing a bolt and tell Joe, three guys from another country will be right there with a replacement bolt for us.


if you’re trying to slide, people want to help you.




I can feel my mind bending

I’m not that comfortable saying, ‘yeah, I want to go to the Olympics.’ Because that makes it sound easy, and it’s not. I don’t want to disrespect anyone who’s ever been to the Olympics, including the guys that have already been for Australia in bobsled. It’s tough.


But the ultimate goal for me is to be the first Paralympian to go to the Paralympics and then go to the Olympics in a different sport.


I’ve done athletics for so long that it’s easy for me in that it’s not a challenge mentally. Sometimes running as fast as I can in a straight line seems boring, especially if you compare it sliding upside down at 120kph.


I think my brain damage definitely affects my personality as well as my body. To most people it wouldn’t be obvious, but I can see that I deal with things differently than others.


I’m way outside of my comfort zone. I can feel my mind bending trying to understand the concepts. It’s like when you can feel yourself learning something at school that you want to learn, and you’re getting a grip on it. ‘Wow, that feels so good’.


Despite my loss in Rio, I’m not done with sprinting just yet.


We only have a short bobsled season and I’ll be trying to qualify for the Tokyo Paralympics, hopefully win there, get some redemption, and then try to qualify for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing which is, funnily enough, where my Paralympic journey began.


Next month, I’ll head to Dubai to defend my world title on November 11 before flying to Norway the next day to start sliding for the season.


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